Saturday, May 09, 2009

Popular Mechanics Debunked Claims Reduced a Bit

Okay, I asked Stoo (sorry about the misspelling) and John-Michael to give us a hint as to what theories debunked in the Popular Mechanics article were completely bogus within the movement and therefore not worthy of our debunking time. I'm happy to hone in on the supposed best evidence at this point and eliminate the constant 7 hijackers are alive trash (although that will have to wait for another day). I'm happy to be civil in this debate, because as always I do feel I have the best information.

They recommended we check out Jim Hoffman's response to the Popular Mechanics piece. For ease of reference I have summarized the major theories that I certainly feel were debunked by PM:

1. Pod Theory
2. Stand Down order
3. Non-commercial airliners hit the towers.
4. Airforce scrambles & intercepts
5. WTC lobby and basement explosions
6. Fire can’t melt steel
7. Squibs
8. Seismographic evidence
9. WTC-7 a controlled demolition
10. Holes too small at the Pentagon
11. Pentagon windows not broken
12. No plane debris at the Pentagon
13. Flight 93 shot down
14. Flight 93 engine found too far from rest of plane.
15. Debris at Indian Lake too far away
16. Flight 93 shot down by Gibney

Let's hear what Hoffman has to say:

1. Pod Theory

The pod-plane idea has been used for over a year to discredit skepticism of the official story. It's not surprising that the article gives it top billing. See ERROR: A Pod Was Attached to the South Tower Plane. The article mentions the site and the video In Plane Site, implying they are representative of the skeptics. Of course it makes no reference to skeptics' sites debunking these productions and the pod-plane idea they feature, such as this page on, or this page on

Okay, so the pod theory is officially dead.

2. Stand-Down Order:

Here, the article falsely implies that and both claim that no jets were scrambled to pursue any of the four commandeered jets. It then attacks this straw man by relating some details of the Commission's timeline (without sourcing the Commission's Report) to suggest that interceptors were scrambled, but that ATC couldn't find the hijacked flights because there were too many radar blips. The article makes no mention of the many problems with NORAD's account of the failed intercepts, but relates the following incredible assertion by NORAD public affairs officer Maj. Douglas Martin that there was a hole in NORAD's radar coverage:

It was like a doughnut. There was no coverage in the middle.

This absurd idea that NORAD had no radar coverage over much of the continental US is distilled from the 9/11 Commission Report. Predictably, the article makes no mention of evidence that war games were planned for the day of 9/11/01. See Multiple War Games on 9/11/01 Helped to Disable Air Defense.

Lots of griping but no indication as to whether he believes that the Stand-Down Order is valid or not, so we'll leave this in the "Open to Debate" section.

3. Non-commercial airliners hit the towers (Hoffman gets the order of the Popular Mechanics piece wrong, but it's fixed by the next entry):

That the South Tower plane had no windows is one of several ludicrous claims made by the In Plane Site video, and, like the pod-planes claim, is dismissed by the simplest analysis. See The Windowless Plane.

I had to dig a little further through the links, but we have made real progress here: Flight 175 is now acknowledged to have hit the South Tower:

There is no credible evidence that what crashed into the South Tower on 9/11/01 was anything other than Flight 175. The jet was seen by hundreds of people and recorded by scores of cameras as it flew over the Hudson River, approaching the World Trade Center from the southwest, and careened into the South Tower, erupting into a spectacular fireball.

4. Air Force Scrambles and Intercepts:

It is safe to assume that a significant fraction of scrambles lead to intercepts, so the fact that there were 67 scrambles in a 9-month period before 9/11/01 suggests that there are dozens of intercepts per year. To its assertion that there was only one intercept in a decade, the article adds that "rules in effect ... prohibited supersonic flight on intercepts," and the suggestion that there were no hotlines between ATCs and NORAD.

Clearly Hoffman considers #4 an appropriate topic for discussion, so we shall not mark it down on the accepted and debunked list.

5. WTC Lobby and basement explosions? Baseless says Jim:

The article's lead point in the World Trade Center topic is an obscure idea that explosives in the basements of the towers damaged the lobbies at about the time the planes hit. With only sparse evidence to support it, this contention is only mentioned by a few researchers. Indeed it is entirely distinct -- in both the support that exists for it, and the support that it provides for "conspiracy theories" -- from the contention that explosives brought down the towers (56 and 102 minutes after the plane crashes).

So bye, bye Willie Rodrigey-yi!

6. Fire can't melt steel.

The article implies that skeptics' criticism of the official account that fires weakened the towers' structures is based on the erroneous assumption that the official story requires that the fires melted the steel.

In fact the fire-melts-steel claim was first introduced by apologists for the official story on the day of the attack, by no less than a structural engineer. The more sophisticated column failure and truss failure theories, advanced in subsequent days and weeks, are the subject of detailed analysis and debunking here.

So we're at least past fire can't melt steel.

7. Seismographic evidence.

The idea that seismic spikes preceded the collapses of the towers is the subject of the page, ERROR: Seismic Spikes Preceded Collapses. Unfortunately a number of web sites seized upon this idea without critically evaluating it. The article takes advantage of this red herring by pointing out that and support it, while ignoring the much larger bodies of valid evidence of demolition that these sites present.

Lamont-Doherty is off the witness list.

8. Squibs.

By titling this section "Puffs Of Dust," rather than "explosions of concrete," and by showing only a collapse photograph from early in the South Tower's destruction, the article minimizes the explosiveness of the event, but nonetheless goes to lengths to explain these "puffs."

Squibs not yet considered debunked.

9. WTC-7 Controlled Demolition. Of course Hoffman is not ready to concede this point, but I am surprised a bit at the evidence he presents; it's the basic "freefall speed into its own footprint:

* The building collapsed with precisely vertical fashion.
* The building collapsed at almost the rate of free-fall.
* The building collapsed into a tidy pile of rubble.

We'll give Hoffman a pass despite the obvious fact that his three factoids turn out to be wrong; the building fell south and east, took 18 seconds and did billions--yes billions--of dollars of damage to surrounding buildings when it collapsed. This is not yet the time for argument, just finding areas that we can take off the map.

10. Holes too small at the Pentagon.

Here the article cites the claim on that the hole in the Pentagon was "only 16ft. across," and mentions French author Thierry Meyssan, who helped to spawn the "no-757-crash theory", the subject of my earlier essay. The article again implies that this idea is gospel among 9/11 skeptics, giving no clue that there is controversy about the issue in 9/11 skeptics circles, and that many consider this claim that no jetliner hit the Pentagon a big distraction. The page ERROR: The Pentagon Attack Left Only a Small Impact Hole and others by 9/11 skeptics have long debunked Meyssan's wildly inaccurate description of a 16-foot-diameter entry hole.

We'll take the size of the entry and exit holes as no longer in doubt. Obviously Hoffman (here) is not yet ready to completely acknowledge that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon, but neither does he deny it.

11. Pentagon windows not broken,

Here the article misrepresents an argument by skeptics of the official account of Flight 77's crash by stating that the issue is intact windows "near the impact area," when the skeptics point to unbroken windows in the trajectory of portions of the Boeing 757.

Argggghhhh! Here I thought Hoffman was going to get us off the Pentagon once and for all and he's defending some research I never heard of about unbroken windows in the trajectory of portions of the Boeing 757.

12. No plane debris at the Pentagon.

Here the article drops a URL for Pentagon Strike a second time, in case the reader missed the first one. The lack of aircraft debris following the Pentagon crash has been noted by many people as suspicious, but it is not surprising, considering the nature of the crash. See ERROR: Aircraft Crashes Always Leave Large Debris

Consider the debris acknowledged.

13. Flight 93 Shot Down. Hoffman focuses on the White Jet which is not really the CT being expressed there, but we can see from other things that he's not opposed to the "shot-down" theory:

The far-flung debris field of the Flight 93 crash site along with the eyewitness accounts make a strong case that the plane was shot down.

14 Engine found too far away.

Hoffman clearly objects that this is still open to debate:

Michael K. Hynes, who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, states parts could bounce that far "when you have high velocities, 500 mph or more." This theory is at odds with the eyewitness reports that the plane plummeted almost straight down, such as the following....

15. Debris at Indian Lake.

Hoffman is silent on his personal opinion here:

The article devotes this point to the confetti seen over Indian Lake, which is about two miles from the main crash site. It explains that this distance is "easily within range of debris blasted skyward by the heat of the explosion from the blast."

16. Flight 93 shot down by Gibney.

n the final point, the article takes on the allegation by retired Army Col. Donn de Grand-Pre that the pilot who shot down Flight 93 was Major Rick Gibney. The article states that Gibney was flying an F-16 that day, but it was not on an intercept mission; rather it was to pick up Ed Jacoby Jr., the director of the New York State's Emergency Management Office, and fly him from Montana to Albany, NY.

Again, Hoffman declines to opine, leaving the issue on the table.

Overall, I'm rather pleased with the progress we've made, while a little surprised at some of the issues that Hoffman was not ready to abandon in 2005; the Pentagon does not get completely ruled out and Hoffman obviously is dodging the question (as of this point) as to what happened with Flight 93.

So let's boil down the list to what's left as of Hoffman's Pop Mech page:

1. Stand Down order
2. Airforce scrambles & intercepts
3. Squibs
4. WTC-7 a controlled demolition
5. Pentagon windows not broken
6. Flight 93 shot down
7. Flight 93 engine found too far from rest of plane.
8. Debris at Indian Lake too far away
9. Flight 93 shot down by Gibney

Theories that we have now established have been dropped by the 9-11 Truth Movement:

1. Pod Theory
2. Non-commercial airliners hit the towers.
3. WTC lobby and basement explosions
4. Fire can’t melt steel
5. Seismographic evidence
6. Holes too small at the Pentagon
7. No plane debris at the Pentagon

This is progress; as I pointed out when I talked about all the theories, Lobby and Basement explosions come up commonly as does fire can't melt steel.

Note, this is not to deny that there are many more theories out there; those 7 may be debunked but there are probably 150 more that Hoffman will not acknowledge as BS. But I do want to start totting up the theories that are now considered moldy.

I don't know if Hoffman's still off on the Flight 93 stuff; this is just a snapshot as of when he wrote his rebuttal to Popular Mechanics. Again, I am not critiquing either Hoffman or Pop Mech in this post, just finding the remaining areas of disagreement.